Identifying personal strengths is a key step on the road to self-improvement.
Through self-reflection, identifying one’s strengths can cause increased self-confidence and general wellbeing.
Even though strengths-based models and positive psychology are well known in psychological research and practice, these models can sometimes be difficult to apply in practice. Understanding the best way to use strength cards with clients helps develop your practical application and knowledge of these methodologies so you can easily apply this tool in your sessions.
Strength cards are practical and simple, and they allow your clients to introduce themselves to their inner strengths without overwhelming them.
This article provides a comprehensive definition of strength cards, suggested ways to implement them into your practice, and three sets of strength cards for adults and children.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Strengths Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help your clients realize their unique potential and create a life that feels energizing and authentic.
This Article Contains:
What Are Strength Cards?
Research on strength cards
A strengths approach is used to guide individuals in recognizing their inherent strengths and focus on developing them. Strength cards are used in counseling and teaching settings to allow individuals to see their strengths as tangible and accessible.
There is a tactile benefit to having the cards right in front of individuals and allowing them to select ones that resonate. It is more helpful than having individuals think of the strengths on their own.
Before understanding how strength cards should be implemented in practice, it is important to understand the foundations of a strengths approach first. This approach emphasizes that understanding personal strengths allows growth and effective learning.
By looking at personal strengths, it makes the individual more powerful when tackling everyday challenges. Rather than focusing on deficits or difficulties, a strengths-based approach aims to make the individual’s abilities the primary focus.
We list some tools that may help an individual recognize their strengths below:
- My Positive Qualities
The aim of the My Positive Qualities exercise is to create an inventory of positive qualities by working through a list of statements and filling in the strengths that apply to them.
- Things I Like About Me
The Things I Like About Me worksheet prompts the participant to write five things they like about themselves using a more open-ended model.
- I’m Great Because
The worksheet I’m Great Because gives the participant open-ended statements to help them brainstorm positive qualities about themselves in different contexts (e.g., family, friends, and in the workplace).
Another tool that practitioners use in a strengths-based practice is a character strengths assessment. Practitioners often invite their clients to complete one questionnaire as their homework before the session.
A character strengths assessment helps get the individual in the right mindset for further examining their strengths and gives them a baseline for expansion during a session that may be focused on applying their strengths (Littman-Ovadia, Lazar-Butbul, & Benjamin, 2014).
The Values in Action (VIA) Inventory of Strengths and VIA Inventory of Strengths–Youth Version (Peterson & Seligman, 2004) were subsequently developed as self-report measures to determine character strengths. The VIA classification of strengths defines 24 character strengths organized into six overarching virtues.
More information about the VIA character strengths can be obtained from the VIA Survey.
Further examples of character strengths assessments are listed below:
- Exploring Character Strengths
Ten questions based on their experience throughout their lifespan can help individuals identify their strengths and application to daily life.
- Recognizing Your Strengths
Recognizing Your Strengths is an open-ended, reflective activity where individuals examine their strengths in specific situations or events, be they hobbies and interests or the workplace.
Benefits of strength cards
Strength cards are applicable for individuals not only to recognize their current strengths, but also to reflect on strengths they wish to develop further. The difference between the use of strength cards and other activities in therapeutic or coaching practices is that strength cards can be integrated more seamlessly into a session (Kendeou, 2016).
A fundamental aspect of a strengths-based approach is that it is structured as an approach, not an outcome or process. While the focus in other practices may be on the end result or achieving a desired outcome, the strengths approach instead aims to enable better outcomes for individuals by giving them tools to identify their strengths (Department of Health and Social Care, 2019).
Therefore, using a strengths-based approach allows the practitioner to work with individuals to determine what strengths they already possess and determine how they can implement them to improve their general wellbeing and self-concept.
Applications of Strength Cards
Strength cards may be a more accessible and low-cost way to encourage clients to reflect on their perceived strengths in a therapeutic context (Jumpp, 2018; Smith & Barros-Gomes, 2015).
Clients who struggle to articulate their strengths and identify the reason they may seek therapy will benefit from using strength cards because of their visual accessibility.
The descriptions of the strengths also eliminate the need to explore the definition of each strength, which shortens the time they may need to facilitate the understanding of how strengths may apply to their everyday activities.
Strength cards can also act as concrete reminders for individuals about their potential. For example, therapists can encourage their clients to carry the cards with them to remind them of their positive attributes and as encouragement when they are feeling hopeless (Kobau et al., 2011).
Other potential applications for strength cards include:
- Using them in relationship and family counseling to allow family members and/or partners to recognize their strengths as a couple or family unit
- Making a list of the strengths an individual wants to develop and coming up with a workable plan to put their goals into action
- Providing individuals with a broad definition of each strength so they can better understand what each strength implies
Using strength cards during strengths-based coaching interventions is a simple, effective means of getting a client to challenge their self-concept perceptions and understand how their thinking patterns may affect their ability to perform, specifically in career-coaching scenarios.
In fact, the strengths-based approach is often referred to as strengths-based development in workplace-based approaches. Strengths-based development is focused on building strengths, intending to make employees more satisfied and engaged, and increasing productivity (Kaiser & Overfield, 2011).
A specific examination into strengths-based career counseling revealed that over 80% of strengths-based intervention clients reported achieving their goals three months later, in comparison to 60% of traditionally coached clients (Littman-Ovadia et al., 2014; Burke, 2018).
The study revealed the positive impact strengths-based coaching may have on clients’ outcomes as well as their experience and satisfaction with the entire coaching process.
However, when implementing a strengths-based approach with strength cards, it is up to the coach to take it further and provide implications to practical scenarios in the workplace. For example, ‘How can these strengths be used in a team context?’ or ‘How can you apply these strengths to get that promotion?’
For more information about strengths in the workplace, we recommend our Cultivating Strengths at Work article for examples and ideas to help jump-start career goals.
2 Printable Strength Card Sets for Adults
Common difficulties encountered by practitioners, coaches, and teachers include how to use strength cards and what follow-up activities will solidify the significance of understanding one’s strengths.
We have developed two sets of strength cards, with activities for the individual to reflect on how to apply what they have learned.
General Strength Cards
The General Strength Cards set is for a therapeutic context where practitioners integrate positive psychology practices. Use these cards to provide clients with an introduction to their strengths and give them concrete tools to enhance their psychological wellbeing.
Print and cut out the attached General Strength Cards and guide your client through the following activities:
1. Journey to self-discovery
Looking at the cards, pick the four strengths that resonate with you the most. While you are looking at the cards, ask yourself:
- Does this strength resonate with me?
- Does it describe who I am?
- When I use this strength, does it give me fulfillment?
2. Using your strengths
- After looking at both sides of the cards in front of you, pick the three that you consider to be your top strengths.
- Provide a concrete example explaining why this strength describes you, such as, “An example of when I used creativity was when I designed a whole concept for my children’s rooms.”
- Explain how you will continue to practice this strength in your everyday life.
3. Reaching your full potential
We recommend that your client complete exercise 1 or 2 before starting this activity.
- After identifying your strengths, select two strengths that you want to develop further.
- If none of the strengths appeal to you, you can write a strength you want to develop on a piece of paper.
- Upon identifying the strengths you want to develop, consider:
- What do I want this strength to look like in practice? Provide an example of how you want this strength to manifest in your daily life.
- How will I develop this strength? Brainstorm some steps you may take to further hone it.
- What is standing in the way of you developing this strength? Name your obstacles and brainstorm how you can overcome them.
Workplace Strength Cards
Understanding personal strengths is essential when changing a mindset and achieving professional fulfillment. This set of Workplace Strength Cards is meant for career and workplace-related coaches and therapists guiding professional development.
The strengths are career oriented and meant for clients to focus on honing their strength-based skills to develop their career. A client’s understanding of their strengths is key in comprehending how to improve their career using these work-related strengths.
Print and cut out the attached Workplace Strength Cards, and guide your client through the following activities sequentially.
1. “What do I bring to the table?”
- Ask your client to reflect on their current or most recent job.
- Ask them to select three strengths they recognize within themselves or that an employer/boss has recognized in them in their performance reviews.
- Place those cards in front of them.
2. Mock interview
- Once your client has selected three strengths, let them turn each card over and read the definition out loud.
- Then, ask them to come up with an example for each strength they have selected that they can provide in an interview.
- Make sure the examples are concrete and can apply to their practical experiences.
3. Building my resume
- Instruct your client to build a strengths-based resume.
- They can select one additional card for a total of four cards.
- Once they have gone through the definitions, let the client reflect on instances when these strengths were used and write down how they can relate it to past/current job experiences.
4. Professional development
- Your client must select two areas that they would like to improve.
- Get them to close their eyes and think of someone in their personal or professional life who embodies these qualities.
- Then, ask them to come up with two ways they can develop these strengths in their current role.
Strength Cards for Children
When using strength cards in a strengths-based approach for children, the aim is to increase self-awareness, self-esteem, and resilience to assist in problem solving (Fenton, 2008).
The Children’s Strength Cards serve as a way of reminding children that we all have strengths and that it is important to focus on what we are good at, rather than what we struggle with.
The cards are illustrated, so they can be used for children as young as 5 or 6 to help them gain awareness of their strengths. By providing images and words that depict the strength, it helps children develop a concrete understanding of these strengths in their lives.
In addition, there are ideas for implementation in groups, i.e. classrooms, which can be useful for educators when promoting strengths or a character-based approach. However, the cards can also be used in one-on-one settings such as coaching and therapy.
Print and cut out the Children’s Strength Cards for the following activities.
- Place the strength cards picture side up (ages 4–7) or word side up (7+).
- Ask the child to choose three of the cards they feel describe them best.
- After the child has selected three cards, ask them to draw, write, or share an example of when they showed this strength.
- You can use the prompt “I am (insert strength name) because…” to help them.
- Ask the child to think of someone they admire or look up to. Examples you may give to help prompt them are their parents, a family member, or a teacher.
- After they have given an example, ask them to name one or two strengths that this person embodies.
- Similar to the first activity, get them to draw, write, or share an example of when that person demonstrated this strength. You can use the prompt “(Person name) is (insert strength name) because…” to help them.
- Ask the child to select one or two strengths that they want to develop. Ask: “Is there anything you’d like to become better at?”
- Get them to place these strengths in the “pond” (a pile of cards or a circle made from blue paper or fabric).
- After they’ve placed the cards in the pond, ask them to “make a wish” about each strength. Some ideas to help the child think of a wish are listed below:
- What do you want to happen with this strength? Do you want to do this more or become better at doing this?
- How are you going to become better or display this strength more often?
- What would it look like if someone displayed this strength? Could you do this too?
PositivePsychology.com’s Relevant Resources
We have many tools to help individuals develop and understand their personal strengths.
At the top of the list would be our Maximizing Strengths Masterclass©. This masterclass develops practitioners’ abilities in strengths-based approaches to help others achieve their goals and recognize their strengths. If you as a practitioner or coach are looking to master the strengths-based approach, then this online course is the best way to understand the theory behind becoming a strengths-based practitioner.
In addition, we have many articles with more information about the strengths-based approach:
- What Is a Strengths-Based Approach?
- 7 Most Accurate Character Strengths Assessments.
- 6 Strength-Finding Tests and Questionnaires You Can Do Today
- What Are Your Strengths? Personal Strengths & Weaknesses Defined (+ List of 92 Personal Strengths).
These additional exercises can also be used with your clients:
- Exploring Character Strengths
- Self-Awareness Worksheet for Older Children
- Strengths in Challenging Times Worksheet
Our Positive Psychology Toolkit© has an amazing and highly recommended selection of over 50 tools specifically aimed at strengths.
Some of these tools are included in our free strengths exercise pack, which features three of our favorite tools from the Toolkit. Here is what is included:
- Red and Green Activities
This exercise explores the difference between activities that utilize our strengths and those that rely on our weaknesses when it comes to energy and engagement. As part of the activity, clients take one week to track and reflect on different activities’ effects on energy to help increase strength awareness and utilization.
- You at Your Best
This exercise invites clients to tell a story, illustrating a time when they performed at their best or did something exceptionally positive. In this, clients will get to savor the positive experience and systematically explore the role their strengths played in producing this optimal outcome, which is so often needed for those struggling with imposter syndrome.
- Strength Regulation
This exercise helps clients consider the different degrees to which we can use our strengths in different situations. In particular, clients select a personal strength and recall the consequences of times when they over- and underutilized it, as well as a time they used this strength at an optimal level.
You can access all three exercises for free by downloading our Strengths Exercises Pack.
17 Strength-Finding Exercises – If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others develop their strengths, this collection contains 17 strength-finding tools for practitioners. Use them to help others better understand and harness their strengths in life-enhancing ways.
A Take-Home Message
Strengths-based approaches can assist individuals in becoming their best self, both personally and professionally.
Using strength cards is an excellent means of helping your clients gain self-awareness of their full potential, whether they are embarking on a new career, looking to improve their current occupation, or simply trying to gain a more intimate understanding of themselves.
Strength cards can also be used when working with children, as they provide an introduction to developing self-confidence and an awareness of one’s strengths by simply relating to the images.
The possibilities for utilizing strength cards in your practice are endless, so be creative! We trust this article provided you with great resources and information to integrate into your strengths-based practice.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Strengths Exercises for free.
- Burke, J. (2018). Conceptual framework for a positive psychology coaching practice. Coaching Psychologist, 14(1), 16–25.
- Department of Health and Social Care. (2019). Strengths-based approach: Practice framework and practice handbook. Retrieved January 19, 2021, from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/778134/stengths-based-approach-practice-framework-and-handbook.pdf
- Fenton, A. (2008). Caution children crossing ahead: Child protection education with preservice teachers using a strengths approach. In D. Bottrell & G. Meagher (Eds.). Communities and change: Selected papers (pp. 211–238). Sydney University Press.
- Jumpp. (2018). Character strength cards. Jumpp.
- Kaiser, R. B., & Overfield, D. V. (2011). Strengths, strengths overused and lopsided leadership. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 63(2), 89–109
- Kendeou, P. (Ed). (2016). Resource review: Strength cards. Educational Psychology Research and Practice, 2(1), 67–69.
- Kobau, R., Seligman, M. E., Peterson, C., Diener, E., Zack, M. M., Chapman, D., & Thompson, W. (2011). Mental health promotion in public health: Perspectives and strategies from positive psychology. American Journal of Public Health, 101(8), 1–9.
- Littman-Ovadia, H., Lazar-Butbul, V., & Benjamin, B. A. (2014). Strengths-based career counseling: Overview and initial evaluation. Journal of Career Assessment, 22(3), 403–19.
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A classification and handbook. Oxford University Press and American Psychological Association.
- Smith, E. N., & Barros-Gomes, P. (2015). Soliciting strengths systemically: The use of character strengths in couple and family therapy. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 26(1), 42–46.